xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: Some pigs are still more equal

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Some pigs are still more equal

I found this story on a little used USB memory stick that had hidden itself on my rather cluttered desk. Obviously, I wrote it some time ago when Sussan Ley was in trouble for improper use of her parliamentary allowances. On reading it I find that it is still quite relevant to the Australia that we are living in today.

George Orwell wrote Animal Farm in 1945. A classic tale of woe, demonstrating that, eventually, in any society, those with the power will exploit the less powerful. Even in a society that says all citizens are equal before the law, Orwell pointed out that “All pigs are equal. Some pigs are more equal than others.”

Just at present, Australia appears to be a facsimile of Animal Farm.
In fact, it is all beginning to resemble the world of Charles Dicken’s, A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens, writing about a time of great political upheaval, started his powerful novel about the struggle between good and evil and the rich and the poor by saying, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

In Australia’s case, we can say it is the best of times for politicians, millionaires and very profitable corporations. Politicians can access generous pensions without any restrictions as to age, assets or current income. Many millionaires and rich corporations can accrue great wealth while paying no income tax whatsoever. Nobody, least of all our pampered political legislators. seems very anxious to close the legal loopholes which enables the very rich to have a tax-free ride in our society.

On the other side of this social divide are the many, many people on welfare, stressed out and suicidal, because Centrelink is sending them letters saying that they have received welfare payments that they were not entitled to, and that the Federal Police will be after them unless they sign up to a repayment plan forthwith.

It has been shown that 20% of these letters were sent out in error to people who do not owe the federal government anything. This unfortunate situation has arisen because the LNP government has sacked many Centrelink employees and replaced them with a computer system that is using a faulty algorithm, erroneously crediting people with more annual income than they earned.

Of course, we need to have checks and balances and to make sure that welfare recipients are deserving of the benefits that they receive and that any over payments are swiftly refunded.
Apparently, the sacked, former employees of Centrelink, were expert at doing this in an efficient and caring way. The computer, using an incorrect template, is not so obliging. To think that Centrelink is sending bogus and threatening messages to one in every five people is appalling.

However, when the Minister for Social Service, Mr (un)Christian Porter, was told of this massive bureaucratic blunder and the great stress it was causing, he showed no sympathy whatsoever. He praised the scheme because it was raising much need money for the government. He blamed the welfare recipients for the problem. Then, assuming the well-practised default position of all LNP politicians when facing criticism, he blamed the Labor Party for the problem.

At the same time, another well fed and well looked after politician, Senator Leyonhjelm, said that all people on a pension should be ashamed of themselves for being so poor. Senator Leyonhjelm often shoots his mouth of without first engaging his brain. In fact, he is a champion of the Shooters Party and says every Australian has the right to own a gun.

Like a lot of people, I was incensed recently, to learn that Federal Minister, Sussan Ley, at taxpayers’ expense flew to the Gold Coast with her partner. She and her partner spent two nights in a Gold Coast hotel, again paid for by the good old, long suffering Australian taxpayer. She justified her taxpayer funded two-day trip to the Gold Coast because she went there to announce a funding plan for a Gold Coast based health programme. Of course, she could have made this announcement in Canberra but she felt she needed to be in the Gold Coast, at taxpayers’ expense. In fact, she and her partner stayed two nights in a Gold Coast hotel at around $380 per night. By the way, an unemployed person on the dole receives about $270 per WEEK in comparison with what a politician gets for one night’s accommodation.

Many politicians, of all parties, receive $390 a night whenever they stay overnight in Canberra. Remember former Treasurer, Joe Hockey. Joe, it was, who famously told Australians that The Age of Entitlement is over. He used to sleep in his wife’s house in Canberra and felt fully entitled to claim $390 for doing so. Joe failed as treasurer so he resigned from Parliament on a huge pension.
He was subsequently appointed as Australian Ambassador to the United States. In this position, he is paid many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and receives huge perks in addition to his salary. At the same time, he still collects his parliamentary pension. Unlike the poor old welfare recipient on a pension, there is no means test for Joe Hockey. There is no asset test either. He just takes all the money. Not sure how much tax Joe pays. He may even follow Prime Minister Turnbull’s example and park his tax payer generated wealth in the tax-free Cayman Islands.

Clearly, Orwell was right and some pigs are much more equal than others. What is equally clear is that these privileged politicians are quite happy to let their rich millionaire mates continue to grow their wealth without paying any taxes. At the same time, they have declared war on the very poorest people in our country. It is so true of our country that the rich are getting richer and the poor are being hounded for every penny.

What are we doing about this travesty? Well, apparently not much at all. The pliant Australian media lacks any real will to challenge the iniquitous and corrupt practices of our privilege politicians. The average voter seems to think that Pauline Hanson will fix everything up. All Ms Hanson ever does, however, is vote in favour of the ruling party, the very privileged LNP government.

It seems that Australians are pathetic when it comes to political action. We are too laid back, drinking a stubby, watching the cricket or the tennis or lazing on golden sands beside azure blue waters.
Now, if we were in France and French politicians were living in untrammelled luxury and the rest of the citizens were being shafted, then those free thinking, liberty loving Frenchies would be out on the streets, manning the barricades and letting those in charge know that they are our servants and that Equality is not just a word that comes between Liberty and Fraternity.

In fact, I think I can hear those politically aware and highly active Frenchmen marching along right now. Oh, how great it would be if we Australians could also rouse ourselves from our lassitude and take strong action to redress the social inequities in our political system as those young idealistic  activists did so nobly in Les Miserables.

’Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes.
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see.

Unfortunately, our response is “Too right, mate. We all want to see a brighter tomorrow. But today I’m busy watching the Hopman Cup and tomorrow is the final day of the Test match in Sydney.
She'll be right! Hoo Roo.”

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